A rare archaeological discovery, the "Gorgone mask", which was stolen in 1996 from the Hiboun excavation site in Annaba, Algeria, is excepted to return to the country after it was found in Sakhr el-Materi’s
house in Tunisia. El-Materi is the son-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisian culture minister Mehdi Mabrouk el-Monkadi confirmed that his country would return the mask to Algeria after the completion of legal procedures.
The Tunisian minister said the relic must be completely cared for while being guarded by special forces in the National Institute for Heritage where it is right now. A team of archaeology experts from Algeria's culture ministry had recently identified the mask in Tunisia after an international television channel reported that more than 160 artefacts were found in Materi’s home.
Materi is accused of smuggling antiques and the illegal transfer of property while owning unauthorised antiques and excavating in archaeological sites without a licence.
The mask was discovered in 1930 after excavations carried out by French archaeologist Chubu in Hiboun. The mask is made of white marble and weighs 320 kgs. It disappeared from Annaba in 1996 after it decorated a public fountain in the city for a long time.
The Gorgone mask embodies the old Greek mythology about three sisters, Medusa , Sthenno and Euryale, whose hair were made of snakes while they bore a terrifying appearance. Mythology states that whoever looks at them turns into stone, and men formed a large portion of their victims. The term "Gorgone" is used to describe anything scary or frightening.
The Gorgone sisters were always depicted as half human and half monster with wings and claws, hairy faces and lion mustaches to form a terrifying image.